Homeschoolers’ robotics team takes home state gold

The Rohming Robots, a robotics team made up of Lowcountry home school students, took home top honors Jan. 30 at the S.C. FIRST Tech Challenge Championship in Gaffney. The team members are (front, from left) Braden Siegal, 9th grade; Samuel Coward, eighth grade; Matthew Emlaw, 11th grade; Gray Stewart, ninth grade; and (back, from left) Nicholas Emlaw, ninth grade; Jacob Blauch, ninth grade; Richard Kroninger, 12th grade; Benjamin Blauch, 11th grade; and Aaron Autry, 10th grade.

A team of young robotics enthusiasts from the Lowcountry is gearing up for regional competition after a first-place state finish.

The 4-H Rohming Robots Project Club, made up of eighth- through 12th-grade home school students from around the Lowcountry, has been tweaking and designing its robot all school year. The students’ ingenuity paid off when they took home top honors at the statewide FIRST Tech Challenge in Gaffney on Jan. 30.

The Rohming Robots — whose name is derived from the ohm, a unit of electrical resistance — compete in games organized by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a nonprofit organization that puts on robotics competitions and establishes mentor relationships for students with an interest in tech-related fields.

The team was tasked with designing, building and piloting a robot that could climb inclines, scale obstacles, push debris, press buttons and pull itself up on a bar within a 12-foot-square arena. Competing in rounds, teams could earn points for performing certain tasks within a time limit. The teams must build their robots to perform tasks both autonomously and via remote control.

The team’s next step is the March 9-11 South Super-Regional tournament in San Antonio. They are raising money to fund the trip online at gofundme.com/r8mjnaec.

Until then, the students will continue meeting in a laboratory at Charleston Southern University, making last-minute improvements to their robot before they take on regional foes. Coach Linda Stewart said the team members have made great strides this year in computer programming, Google productivity software and three-dimensional CAD modeling. But she said some of the greatest lessons have more to do with life skills than technology.

“I think it’s a lot of soft skills that they can apply whether they end up working in engineering,” Stewart said. “Any time that they have to work with other people to accomplish a goal, it’s going to help them.”

Reach Paul Bowers at 843-937-5546 or twitter.com/paul_bowers.